Inside the White Rum Renaissance

white rum

While the history of rum is full of tales of pirates and notorious politics, the history of white rum’s most famous cocktail – the Daiquiri – is surprisingly more prosaic.

In the late 1890s, an American mining engineer living in the Daiquiri Mountains in Cuba was entertaining guests and had run out of gin. He replaced it with light rum and the rest, as they say, is history.

Light rum is the “milk of Cuba” and as fresh limes are plentiful, it wasn’t long before the cocktail was perfected in Havana at the famous El Floridita Bar. Or so the story goes…

The hole in story, of course, is that Cuban white rum was highly esteemed even before the nineteenth century. Why did no one think of mixing lime juice and sugar before?

Of course, people probably did, however, the story does highlight the problem the white rum category has been saddled with since the very first daiquiri.

The Lost Rum

Every rum company produces white rum, but not many bother to spend energy and money to produce a world class example. White rum is dominated by a few companies (with big budgets). It is a highly competitive market cornered by huge drinks corporations.

Most white rums are neutral, a bit rustic and, dare I say it, vodka-like.  Not the sort of thing to excite serious rum aficionados.

When Alexandre Gabriel, was asked to consider producing a white rum with Plantation Rum, he admitted he was nervous. He attempted a premium white rum 15 years ago, but found the market was not ready for a serious rum without any colour.

Viva la revolucion!

However since Gabriel’s first experience, there has been a quiet revolution behind the bar. Bartenders are resisting the mega-brands and turning to the boutique.

There is movement towards craftsmanship in spirits. Aged rums are gaining a new appreciation with whisky drinkers, while complex rums from Martinique and Guadaloupe have gained an audience with serious Armagnac and Cognac drinkers. And now white rums are getting a look in too. This new excitement led Gabriel to try again and the result is the stunning  3 Stars Plantation white rum - a blend of 3 islands (Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica), including a premium 12-year-old Jamaican rum.

In fact, Plantation 3 Stars White Rum was thoroughly tested on the daiquiri – one of the most demanding of cocktails, which according to the cocktail bible by David A. Embury, “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks,” It is one of the six basic cocktails to be mastered, along with the Martini, Manhattan, Old-Fashioned, Sidecar and the Jack Rose.  Gabriel knew he’d got the blend right only when it worked perfectly mixed with lime and sugar.

Sublime with Lime

It is easy to forget the sublime simplicity of the classic daiquiri. After all, there are only three ingredients (2 ounces white rum, 1 ounce fresh lime juice, ½ ounce simple syrup). A good daiquiri needs good white rum.

Paul McFadyen (our resident rum expert) says the perfect rum for the daiquiri has “crispness with some balanced flavour – that’s why 3 Stars is such a complicated blend.”

Time to rise up, white rum lovers, and liberate your cocktails. Viva!

Juel Mahoney
13th June 2012

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